I usually use this blog to only blog about strategies for the exams that I teach. However, these are some extraordinary times, and normal patterns do not hold.
I took a midnight stroll last night through the streets of downtown Boston with my girlfriend. Shop after shop was closed. Some of them were officious, “By orders of the governor, we are hereby…”. Some of them casual, “Sorry, be back soon! Stay safe!” Some just had barely legible scribbled notes, while others carefully framed and formatted a formal message.
It felt so strange. I couldn’t stop reading them, perhaps because it felt so unreal. It was like some cold wind had blown through the streets, closing stores but leaving everything else untouched. Through the bright window of a brownstone we saw a copy of the Mona Lisa, impassively staring back out at the darkness outside.
We walked by Mass General Hospital, which is mostly dark and quiet at night. From the outside, it looked solid, an institution in every sense of the word. I didn’t dare go inside, for my sake and theirs.
There was an anxiety in the air as we walked. Masks on the faces of passerbys, gloves on their hands. Mostly empty train cars laboriously trudging between stations. Lyft and Uber drivers driving aimlessly, some masked up and looking ready for the end of the world, others looking like they just rolled out of bed. By Regal Cinemas next to the Common (“this location is temporarily closed”), we passed by one couple playfully but energetically arguing in a car, the girl mimicking covering her mouth and coughing.
It felt for all the world like an invisible war. All of us staying home, while the soldiers on the frontline gear for 24 hour shifts. We wonder what’s going to be left standing when this is all over, what sort of strange new world we’ll walk out into in a month, or 3, or 18, whenever we’re allowed outside again. The well-being of individuals left behind in a macro, life-or-death struggle, humanity’s needs prioritized over people’s.
I cleared out my office today. I rent space in a WeWork, and Massachusetts has shut down all non-essential businesses. I was surprised to see a couple other people working in the space: one woman, taking a call alone in a large space of like 50 desks, and two coworkers, chatting in a conference room. I said goodbye to the WeWork receptionist before I left. I wanted to ask him if he thought WeWork was going to survive this, but it felt unnecessary. He was probably worried enough. Besides, it feels inappropriate to inquire about the survival of a company in a pandemic.
As I write this, it’s been snowing outside. It’s a thick wintry mix of snow and rain, unseasonable for late March and worse than almost any actual day this dry winter. It’s not the end of the world. It just sucks to trudge through, and it’s hard to see through to a brighter, warmer day. One’s surely coming, though.